Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is one of those shows that I walked into nearly dreading. Christmas can really irk me. Go ahead, call me a Scrooge. I suppose it’s the false happy face many seem to put on, the forced fake enthusiasm. The ‘magic’ of Christmas was lost on me somewhere around the age of 10 I believe. I, however have never quite tired of many of the “timeless” holiday shows and stories about the season I have come to dread. Most of these tales have some kind of heft or sucker punch that can bring even my cold heart to a momentary thaw, moving me however momentarily to feel something. Sure, maybe I am too easily caught up in it all but like sex panther cologne 60% of the time…it works every time dependent on the tale.
Which brings me to this production of White Christmas. Outside of the classic well known song written by Berlin and the immortal 1942 recording by Bing Crosby, I have never seen the film. I expected a pretty generic Christmas time show, which it more or less is. However this was fun in it’s time setting. Similar in spirit to last summer’s fun romp of a production of Anything Goes out at the Starlight theater this is one of those shows that is almost as much an homage to the way things used to be done in musicals as it is a holiday show.
The basic background of the show revolves around Bob Wallace (Stephen Bogardus) and Phil Davis (David Elder). Two former G.I.’s turned showmen who are a hit on the Ed Sullivan show thanks to their friendship forged during their time in the armed forces with Ralph Sheldrake (John Antony). Looking for a female duo to add to their show they take in a performance by the Haynes sisters Betty (Kerry O’Malley) and Judy (Megan Sikora). Phil falls for Judy, come on it’s a musical there has to be a love interest right? He then unbeknown to Bob, changes their train tickets to follow the ladies to Vermont rather than the sunshine of Miami. Having not seen the film but reading through the Wikipedia page about it the production isn’t a direct copy of the film itself. I also heard as much mentioned by the crowd at the show during intermission.
Most the show revolves around the mad dash to get an unexpected holiday show staged, in a barn of all places, and how simple misunderstandings can spiral out of control. It even gets interactive at a few points as the audience become part of the 151st division of the Army and is also invited to sing along to the shows namesake tune, there is one other surprise that I will leave for when you attend the show.
The show has the heart string pulling moment that as I mentioned gets me most every time. It does it here as well, however I felt it was a little more drawn out than it really needed to be. It’s about the only moment that fell flat in an otherwise fun show. Sure White Christmas may not be anything new, and I would even venture to say it’s a bit too obvious. It saves itself from being completely forgettable and unbearable thanks to the infectious energetic performances of all the players and the way it hearkens back, much like the song itself, to simpler times.
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas has daily shows at the music hall through this Sunday (1/10). For specific show information visit the Broadway Across America site, or call the box office at 1-800-982-2787